Last year I was invited to perform two organ concerts in Wittenberg, Germany–one at the Schlosskirche and the second at the Stadtkirche– as part of the Luther Decade celebration. Discovering that the theme for the 2012 celebration was The Reformation and Music, I began planning the my concert programs to reflect that theme.
I thoroughly enjoy putting together themed programs. I feel an audience can relate to the music of an organ concert more easily if there is an overarching theme and not just a series of unrelated pieces. With that in mind, I decided to use the chorales and texts of Martin Luther as the basis for the concerts.
Because the tower of the Schlosskirche is ringed with opening words of Luther’s most famous hymn, “Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott,” I decided to begin and end the concert at the Schlosskirche with organ arrangements of that chorale–the first a fanfare-like arrangement by Jan Bender and to conclude, the powerful arrangement by Max Reger. Completing the concert were contemporary settings of other Luther chorales.
The second concert of the week was performed at the Stadtkirche, the church where Luther often preached, was married, and his children were baptized. Playing the Sauer organ, I continued the theme of music based on Luther chorales with the “Fantasia super Komm Heiliger Geist” by JS Bach as the centerpiece. Chorale settings by other Baroque composers completed the program.
The thrill of performing settings of Luther’s chorales in the Schlosskirche and Stadtkirche during the Reformation and Music Year of the Luther Decade was enormous.